University of South Florida

Infections from 'brain-eating' amoeba deadly, but rare

Infections from 'brain-eating' amoeba deadly, but rare

News that a college student from New York died from an infection she likely got swimming in Cecil County was frightening for many who spend time in local water.

The Naegleria fowleri amoeba is so common in warm freshwater that public health authorities don't bother testing for it. They don't plan to put up signs, or take any other precautions to prevent more infections.

Infections are almost always fatal — but they are also exceedingly rare. The case of 19-year Kerry Stoutenburgh was the first linked to Maryland waters. Nationwide, only 138 people were infected between 1962 and 2015, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Local public health...